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SOWK 534/535: Community Immersion Paper

Resources to help students find information about policy, advocacy research, and statistics and demographics.

Get Help Finding What You Need!

As a general rule, you'll want to use popular (not scholarly) websites to find location-specific information such as population size, demographic makeup, community issues and policies, and governance.

You will use scholarly sources to understand how that location-specific information impacts aspects of the residents' quality of life.

Watch all (or some!) of the videos below to help you better understand where to find the sources you need.

What do you need?

For this assignment, you'll need 3 primary types of evidence.

1. Demographic information of your community, like population, average income, education levels, etc.

2. Community structure information, like local government bodies or advisory councils.

3. Scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles to help contextualize the issues in your community.

Citing Sources

Every claim you make in your paper needs to be substantiated with either evidence or an explanation of your experience.If you say that incarceration rates are rising, provide a statistic to support it; if you claim that community members are upset about a recent city council ruling, provide a quote from someone who says that.

 Remember that your name is on the paper, so don't put anything in it that you personally haven't verified.

See the APA Resources tab above for help citing different types of resources. Watch the Creating an APA Citation video and complete the Avoiding Plagiarism tutorial for even more help.

Writing Tips

Be clear and specific about what you say. If something is important, say why!

"Social workers need to understand their communities to make informed decisions about the kinds of services needed, and the kinds of services their clients have access to, as well as to better understand what conflating social issues may be present," is better than "Social workers need to understand their commmunities."

Demographic Information

The Census Bureau is the most reputable source for demographic information.  They have a search tool called American FactFinder.

The mapping program Social Explorer pulls data from the Census Bureau and displays it in an easy-to-see map.  Social Explorer is a bit more useful than American FactFinder because you can designate unusual or small areas you want data for.

Watch a demonstration of Social Explorer below.

Click here to go to Social Explorer.

Or, click here to go directly to the Census' search engine, American FactFinder.


Community Structures

To get information about the community structure, it is ok to use Google (in fact, that's the only thing to use).

Sort your Google results to only government or organizational websites by adding; .org to the end of your Google search.
For example: pasadena neighbor councils

Be careful when you use websites for information! Use the EVALUATING SOURCES tutorial for more help.

When finding non-scholarly resources, ask yourself the following questions to determine if they are appropriate to use:

Currency: Is this source up-to-date? Might there be newer sources that contradict, expand, or support this source?

Relevancy: Is this source relevant to my topic or question?

Accuracy: Is this source accurate? Does its logic make sense to me? Are there any internal contradictions? Does it link or refer to its sources?

Authority: Who created or authored this source? Could the author or creator bring any biases to the information presented? Is the author or creator a reputable or well-respected agent in the subject area?

Purpose: Is this source intended to educate, inform, or sell? What is the purpose of this source?


Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Sources

Your assignment requires you to explain why the specific demographics of your community are important; in other words, you'll need to contexualize the realities of your communities within the scholarly conversation.

For example, perhaps your community has both a high incidence of incarceration and failing school systems. You can search for scholarly articles to explore the relationship between incarceration and education.

See the Scholarly Sources tab above for help on getting scholarly material for your paper. Also, consider completing the Developing Keywords tutorial to help you make your database searching faster!